It is with considerable reluctance and sadness I feel the need to write this letter. I had the honour and privilege of serving as chief of Kluane First Nation for three years. The council I worked with did an honourable job of seeking to fulfill the spirit and intent of self-government and final agreement by being vigilant to the duties and obligations to fiscal responsibility, fairness and good governance.
I decided for the sake of continuity to let my name stand for office again in the 2010 election. As it happens, I was defeated, in good part, because of the court-imposed requirements that “off-reserve” citizens have equal voting rights despite the fact that the bulk of services are confined to residents on settlement lands. Those residents reliant on services have no more say than others who have never lived or never intend to live in our territory. It presents a difficult and divisive challenge and according to the rules, as poorly representative as they are, the new council and chief won “fairly and squarely.”
Sadly, I immediately encountered the reality of Indian Affairs style approaches. Despite our convention of retaining the advisory role of an outgoing chief for six weeks for corporate advice and as an accommodation to allow for ease of transition for the new chief and for the adjustment of the outgoing chief to their new life, I was cast aside as if yesterday’s trash.
I struggled on, completed my certification as a journeyman plumber and successfully launched my own company. I hoped to attract some work from my nation and was awarded a couple of small jobs. I encountered nothing but grief in obtaining payment and am still trying to be paid for past work.
I watched my community regress into the old ways of an administration dominated and operated by the chief – abandoning the promises of fairness and transparency – of vindictiveness, nepotism and favouritism.
Self-government holds great promise, as with any responsibility, it also holds the threat of misconduct and manipulation. The responsibility is huge and it is difficult. We see this with all governments and the challenge for citizens is to reward ethical and fair conduct while calling out those who would exploit their positions for self-privilege.
I write this letter as a general lament for all those contending with irresponsible governance but mainly as a challenge to my fellow Kluane citizens to pressure for the fulfillment of the promises of our agreements by holding our elected officials to the highest standards and by rendering judgment on those who disappoint us in fulfillment of that sacred duty by selecting alternative candidates. I am not advocating on behalf of any specific candidates for chief or council but I am asking others to set their tone of expectation by casting their votes for alternatives to those that have proven to be unable to meet their obligations to our constitution and to fairness and transparency.